Although the Europeana Sounds project has now finished, we still want to tell you about what’s happening in the world of sound and music on Europeana. This blog, on the works of Alban Berg, was written by Zea Frane who worked on the Europeana Sounds project at the Austrian National Library.

Alban Berg in 1924 (204474-D), Austrian National Library. Free Access – No Re-use

Arnold Schönberg, Gustav Mahler and Anton von Webern are famous Austrian composers who lived on the brink of the 19th to the 20th century. One name that is missing from this list is Alban Berg, who is one of the most famous and important Austrian composers of this time. He died, aged 50, on the 24th of December in 1935.

He was a great admirer and student of Arnold Schönberg, part of the Second Viennese School and combined feeling, melodic and tonal relations as well as twelve-tone technique in his works.

Apart from Berg’s immense musical talent, he was also highly gifted regarding poetry and had a thorough interest in and knowledge of contemporary literary works. He also used to work as a writer, even having considered giving up composing in its favour.

Alban Berg’s score of Wozzeck (F21.Berg.14/GF MUS)  – Austrian National Library – Public Domain

Among his most-famous works are probably his two operas “Wozzeck” and “Lulu” as well as his “Lyric Suite” for string quartet. All three of them can be found in certain versions within the Music Department of the Austrian National Library. Helene Berg, the widow of Alban Berg, bestowed some of her husband’s autographs to the Austrian National Library while she was still alive; after her death, Alban Berg’s whole estate was given to the Austrian National Library.

On the right, you can see two pages of the Particell (i.e. a short score) of Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck. It is based on a work by Georg Büchner. On the left side is the description of the scenario of the opera and on the right side is the beginning of the first scene of the first act in Particell.

Alban Berg – Lyric Suite (F21.Berg.23/I Mus) – Austrian National Library – Public Domain

Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite is a string-quartet in six movements, which Berg wrote between 1925 and 1926. The page you can see on the left, is the beginning of the first movement the allegretto gioviale – and is taken from the earliest version of this work. This version is said to have been for Berg’s own private use only.

The Lyric Suite was officially dedicated to the composer Alexander von Zemlinsky but unofficially to a woman with whom Berg had a secret love affair – Hanna Fuchs-Robettin. Their relationship is mirrored within this piece.

Alban Berg – Lyric Suite (F21.Berg.23/I Mus) – Austrian National Library – Public Domain

You can also find sketches and tone-rows within this autograph. Shown on the right is one for the 6th movement – the Largo.

The Particell of the unfinished opera Lulu can also be found within the content of the Austrian National Library. The opera is based on Frank Wedekind’s tragedies “Erdgeist” (Earth Spirit) and “Büchse der Pandora” (Pandora’s Box). Below, you can see the beginning of the 3rd act, with notes and sketches.

You can discover more material related to Alban Berg and, also, other composers, on Europeana Music Collections.

Alban Berg – Lulu (F21.Berg.29/I-III/GF Mus) – Austrian National Library – Public Domain